Keeping up with their friends online is fuelling disturbed sleep, depression and anxiety among teenagers, according to researchers.
The fear of missing out on social media – referred to as FOMO by the internet-savvy younger generation – means teenagers are under greater pressure to stay connected for as long as possible.
Around 90 per cent of adolescents are estimated to have a presence on social media, and those who stay glued to gadgets well into the night are most at risk of developing emotional problems, the study found.
These could then be carried over into adulthood because teenagers are particularly at risk of developing long-term issues.
Dr Heather Cleland Woods, from Glasgow University, said: ‘Adolescence can be a period of increased vulnerability for the onset of depression and anxiety and poor sleep quality may contribute to this.’
Her study – which is being presented today at a British Psychological Society conference in Manchester – questioned 467 teenagers on their overall and night-time social media use.
Further tests looked at sleep quality, and the pressure they felt under to be available on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp around the clock.
They revealed that overall social media use, night-time specific use and emotional investment all had a ‘significant’ impact on quality of sleep, as well as being linked with higher levels of depression and anxiety. The average dip in sleep quality was 13.5 per cent.
Dr Cleland Woods added: ‘While overall social media use impacts on sleep quality, those who log on at night appear to be particularly affected.
‘This may be mostly true of individuals who are highly emotionally invested, and means we have to think about how kids use social media, in relation to time for switching off.’
Recent research from public health officials in Canada also found a link between social media use and psychological problems.
A study of 700 secondary school pupils in Ottawa found that those with poor mental health were three times as likely to use social network sites for more than two hours a day than those with no problems.